taking the Fifth

(redirected from Fifth Amendment rights of witnesses)

taking the Fifth

n. the refusal to testify on the ground that the testimony might tend to incriminate the witness in a crime, based on the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution which provides that "No person....shall be compelled to be a witness against himself," applied to state courts by the 14th Amendment. The term became famous during televised Senate committee hearings on organized crime in 1951, when a series of crime bosses "took the Fifth." (See: self-incrimination)